Monday, June 08, 2009

Stasiland?

Well, maybe not quite but we're getting there it seems, as the state is now requiring us to inform on our friends and families.

Yesterday morning, I received a phone call from a gentlemen in the EOTAs section of a Local Authority who asked me to tell him the names and addresses of all the people who attend a home education group we help to run and any other home educating families I happen to know about. Naturally, I told him this was impossible as I didn't know him from Adam and anyway I couldn't possibly breach people's confidentiality or betray their friendship and trust, even had he come at me with a badge, his Criminal Record's Bureau Check, his CV, his passport, you name it. All the while I was thinking, I do actually love loads of the people he is asking about. Who does he think I am?

The conversation, if anything, then took a turn for the even worse with a perfect demonstration of one LA employee's serpentine understanding of current legislation. Actually, chopped logic is the phrase that springs to mind.

I tried to explain that I thought he might like to think again about his understandable belief that he must search us all out for the purpose of assessing every family for the suitability of their educational provision, whether or not there is any reason to think that there might be a problem. I suggested that this behaviour might create both a constitutional and a practical problem for his authority, whatever current guidance might actually say.

I told him that since he (understandably) believes that it is this duty to assess all out of school educational provision, then he must accept that the state is responsible for determining the nature of education in this country. In which case, I went on, I think both home educating and state schooled parents alike whose children are being failed by this state-elected educational provision should be rubbing their hands rather gleefully, since it looks like bonanza time.

He then said "Well, it's up to the parents what and how they teach". In which case, says I, "Why are you bothering to visit? If the parent says that they are not going to help their child to learn to read because that is part of their educational philosophy, what exactly are you going to do about it, if it is up to the parents to make that decision?"

At which point, he turns round and says angrily and heatedly (sorry, this is mutating into a bad episode of Eastenders I do realise), "This is not what this conversation is about. I just rang you up for the names and addresses."

"Yes, you did," I says, "and I can't help you there, and no-one I know will help you".

"Well, how am I supposed to do my job then?" he asks.

"The thing is," says I, "I don't think that is my problem," which I don't think it is really, as I didn't vote for this government and didn't write the Education and Inspections Act 2006.

"But", says I, trying to be generous, "If it's any consolation, I'll tell you that there isn't a single family I currently know of who isn't providing a highly suitable education. "

"Well, that's not up to you to decide", says he.

I didn't actually manage to provide an instant summary of his argument at the time, but in l'esprit d'escalier:

"So what you're saying is that it's not up to the state to decide on the nature of a suitable education because it's up to the parents, but it's actually not really up to the parents, because in fact the state does have this duty. Err?

"Plus one would like to hope that the state, being the servants of society would represent that society, but given that it is not up to me (representing Jo Public) to determine the nature of a suitable education, then the state can't really be said to represent the populace on this point, prefering to simply silence them on these issues,

"And, now we come to mention the voice of the people, where is the child's voice in all this? Isn't the state supposed to be taking this seriously? If you are, then I can tell you that there isn't a single HE child I currently know of who is unhappy with their home education.

"What's more, most of these children are saying they don't want to have anything to do with you, so if you are saying you want to take them seriously, you will just have to listen to what the parent tells you about this."

I'm sorry to report that we didn't really part on terribly friendly terms.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

WOW
Jo

Kate said...

I've had this happen to me too, so sneaky, needless to say I didn't tell either.

Raquel said...

When I was harassed by the woman from the LA, who was demanding to know where I lived, I complained to my MP and the DCSF. Of course they just gave me a load of hot air and told me to complain to he council she was working for. But I preferred not to get involved with them seeing as I don't even live there anymore. But complaining gave me a small iota of satisfaction and at least this woman's behavior will have been noted somewhere. Its appalling that he expected you to give out details of other families!

Maire said...

He couldn't have picked a better person. (giggling gleefully)

Firebird said...

They'll have fun trying this with me because while I do currently run the local group I'm also unknown to the LA so they can't phone me up. Ha ha! :-) Not that our lot would be likely to bother, they like their quiet lives and a 100-200% increase in families to snoop on would mean FAR too much extra work ;-)

Even so, pretty bleedin outrageous asking you to shop on your friends like that!

Lisa G said...

Well, he's obviously barking up the wrong tree (or just barking) if he thought you were going to be of assistance in snitching on the home edders in this area - wish I'd been a fly on the wall!

Anonymous said...

First of all, WELL DONE for having the guts and brains and awareness to be on your toes when a call like this invades your home. You are a heroine!

Second, HOW DID THEY GET YOUR PHONE NUMBER?
Third, By what statute are they able to demand that you provide information on other people?

Fourth, this is ONLY THE BEGINNING. If ContactPoint is not stopped, they will be calling everyone who is the parent of a child not listed as registered in a school. You need to be ready to receive this call, and answer it in terms like this or less, i.e., telling them they do not have your permission to call your telephone, telling them to write to you, and hanging up. You should then ban their number by dialing 14258 and blocking the last number called. Then, when the letters arrive, simply ignore them.

This is the only way to deal with these subhuman animals; be on your toes and ready to react instantly.

These people and their power are like spider's webs; easily brushed away. They have no real power, and no ability to do anything. They cannot even collect the names of Home Educators without the collaboration of the people they are trying to target. They have lost before they have even begun.

Once again, well done, WELL DONE and thank you for sharing this story. It is people like you who make a difference to everyone by setting such a sterling example.

Anonymous said...

Very unethical to expect you to give out private information without consent from the individuals concerned.

Their training must be lacking in many departments. Apparently, I have read recently, Most of the workers in these fields, including the social services, have NO training at all in counselling/relating skills! Apparently, the authorities rely on the fact that they are likely to have these skills innately just because they have chosen to do these jobs - this inadequate preparation explains some of the major problems encountered.

The very fact that the 'gentleman' did not introduce himself honestly makes him unethical, for instance,right from the start! How can he hope to carry out a job with such a strong requirement for sensitivity and PR if he doesn't know these things?

D

Anonymous said...

Oops! My comment crossed with anon above me. Well said, much more constructive!

D

Elaine said...

Have you lodged an official complaint about this man?

Carlotta said...

Hi Elaine,

re: complaint

I have yet to write it, but there was a general consensus amongst the local HEors I spoke to yesterday that we should lodge one, so I will get on to it.

mum6kids said...

To echo Jo
WOW!

Oooh I just wish they would phone me! ... (eveil cackle)

Tom said...

So it's up to us what we teach and how we teach it, as long as they deem it to be suitable.

It seems like a straightforward contradiction to me.

>Well, how am I supposed to do my job then?

Better to resign with honour. It's only a job.

People's *lives* are being messed with here.

Anonymous said...

Incidentally it seems from this:

http://www.communitycare.co.uk/Articles/2007/05/03/104378/impact-of-al-aynsley-green-as-childrens-commissioner.html

that the children's commissioner hasn't been effective and hasn't truly represented children's rights in England in particular.

Nevertheless it seems that he has some good ideas e.g. banning smacking:

http://www.communitycare.co.uk/Articles/2007/05/03/104378/impact-of-al-aynsley-green-as-childrens-commissioner.html

Perhaps one of the special cases he could fight to prove he really does represent children is the home educated child's right to be ecuated autonomously and without the sort of judgements that prevent that?

D

Curmudgeon said...

Anonymous wrote:

Nevertheless it seems that he has some good ideas e.g. banning smacking:

Hang on, I thought we were getting angry that edicts from the state were undermining parental primacy?

Please, think carefully before responding to this point.

Anonymous said...

I think it is a question of putting violence against children on the same par legally as violence against adults. It is illegal to physically attack/chastise other adults, so if children are to have rights and be taken seriously surely they should expect the same rights?

If the government are so concerned with possible abuse for children, for instance, why don't they protect children more from violence from others in the same way that they protect adults?

Clearly some parents think they should be able to use violence (smacking is violence) to achieve their parental goals but I'm not one of them!
D
However, this is off topic so I probably shouldn't have mentioned it.

lotusbirther said...

Almost unbelievable! And with todays news about how well trained these LA staff are alleged to be, shocking indeed.